The Apple That Astonished Paris

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In 1988 the University of Arkansas Press published Billy Collins's The Apple That Astonished Paris, his "first real book of poems," as he describes it in a new, delightful preface written expressly for this new printing to help celebrate both the Press's twenty-fifth anniversary and this book, one of the Press's all-time best sellers.

In his usual witty and dry style, Collins writes, "I gathered together what I considered my best poems and threw them in the mail." After "what ...

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The Apple That Astonished Paris: Poems

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Overview

In 1988 the University of Arkansas Press published Billy Collins's The Apple That Astonished Paris, his "first real book of poems," as he describes it in a new, delightful preface written expressly for this new printing to help celebrate both the Press's twenty-fifth anniversary and this book, one of the Press's all-time best sellers.

In his usual witty and dry style, Collins writes, "I gathered together what I considered my best poems and threw them in the mail." After "what seemed like a very long time" Press director Miller Williams, a poet as well, returned the poems to him in the "familiar self-addressed, stamped envelope." He told Collins that there was good work here but that there was work to be done before he'd have a real collection he and the Press could be proud of: "Williams's words were more encouragement than I had ever gotten before and more than enough to inspire me to begin taking my writing more seriously than I had before."

This collection includes some of Collins's most anthologized poems, including "Introduction to Poetry," "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House," and "Advice to Writers." Its success over the years is testament to Collins's talent as one of our best poets, and as he writes in the preface, "this new edition . . . is a credit to the sustained vibrancy of the University of Arkansas Press and, I suspect, to the abiding spirit of its former director, my first editorial father."

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Editorial Reviews

USA Today
"Using simple, understandable language, Collins captures ordinary life -its pleasure, its discontents, its moments of sadness and joy."
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781557280244
  • Publisher: University of Arkansas Press
  • Publication date: 2/28/1999
  • Pages: 71
  • Product dimensions: 4.38 (w) x 7.94 (h) x 0.15 (d)

Meet the Author

Billy Collins

Billy Collins is Distinguished professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He was appointed poet laureate of the United States for 2001-2003 and is currently the poet laureate of New York State. He is the author of eight collections of poetry including his latest, The Trouble with Poetry.

Biography

In 1985, the humorist Calvin Trillin suggested that Robert Penn Warren would never have been named Poet Laureate if he'd been known as plain Bob Warren. Trillin might be surprised at the 2002 appointment of Billy Collins -- whose laid-back name suits his open-collar-and-blue-jeans appearance, as well as his unpretentious writing style -- to a second term as U.S. Poet Laureate.

But then, Collins himself might be a little surprised. Like most poets, he toiled in obscurity for years, snowed under by rejections from small literary journals. As recently as 1997, he couldn't interest a commercial publisher in his fifth book of poems, Picnic, Lightning. But word of mouth and Collins' appearances on National Public Radio helped push sales of the book, published by the University of Pittsburgh Press, far beyond the usual figures for a volume of poetry from a university press. A previous book was reissued, Random House signed him up for a three-book deal, and Collins was on his way to fame and comparative fortune.

Why is Collins so popular now? One term often applied to his work is "accessible," though he prefers the term "hospitable." "I think accessible just means that the reader can walk into the poem without difficulty," he explained to Elizabeth Farnsworth on the PBS NewsHour. Collins is also very funny -- and that, too, is inviting. For Collins, anything from the barking of a neighbor's dog to the egg-salad stain on a copy of The Catcher in the Rye can be a fit subject for a poem.

But Collins sees accessibility and humor as means to an end. The purpose of a poem, he believes, is to take the reader on an imaginative journey. "Poetry is my cheap means of transportation," he told a New York Times interviewer. "By the end of the poem the reader should be in a different place from where he started. I would like him to be slightly disoriented at the end, like I drove him outside of town at night and dropped him off in a cornfield."

Critics have sometimes charged that Collins' language is too prosaic, his middle-class milieu too smugly comfortable. But many of his contemporaries, including John Updike, Gerald Stern and Edward Hirsch, have admired his originality, wit and intelligence. As Richard Howard put it: "Mr. Collins is funny without being silly, moving without being silly, and brainy without being silly. If only he were silly, we should know how to 'place' him. But he is merely -- merely! -- funny, moving, brainy. That will have to do."

Good To Know

Collins grew up in Jackson Heights, Queens, where his electrician father sometimes brought home issues of Poetry magazine from an office on Wall Street. "He wanted me to go to Harvard Business School," Collins said in a Hope magazine interview. "If he had known the effect of those magazines, he probably would have burned them."

As Poet Laureate, Collins launched a well-received program called Poetry 180, which encourages high schools to read a contemporary poem together each day, preferably by having a student, teacher or staff member read the poem aloud.

Collins is a professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York. He lives in Somers, N.Y.

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    1. Also Known As:
      William James Collins
    2. Hometown:
      Somers, New York
    1. Date of Birth:
      March 22, 1941
    2. Place of Birth:
      New York, New York
    1. Education:
      B.A., Holy Cross College, 1963; Ph.D. in Romantic poetry, University of California at Riverside, 1971

Table of Contents

In 1988 the University of Arkansas Press published Billy Collins's The Apple That Astonished Paris, his "first real book of poems," as he describes it in a new, delightful preface written expressly for this new printing to help celebrate both the Press's twenty-fifth anniversary and this book, one of the Press's all-time best sellers.

In his usual witty and dry style, Collins writes, "I gathered together what I considered my best poems and threw them in the mail." After "what seemed like a very long time" Press director Miller Williams, a poet as well, returned the poems to him in the "familiar self-addressed, stamped envelope." He told Collins that there was good work here but that there was work to be done before he'd have a real collection he and the Press could be proud of: "Williams's words were more encouragement than I had ever gotten before and more than enough to inspire me to begin taking my writing more seriously than I had before."

This collection includes some of Collins's most anthologized poems, including "Introduction to Poetry," "Another Reason Why I Don't Keep a Gun in the House," and "Advice to Writers." Its success over the years is testament to Collins's talent as one of our best poets, and as he writes in the preface, "this new edition . . . is a credit to the sustained vibrancy of the University of Arkansas Press and, I suspect, to the abiding spirit of its former director, my first editorial father."

Read More Show Less

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 23, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    what to say new since 1958

    first of course, most people think that "introduction to poetry"
    is worth the price of the book.

    some poems i like / they move me while others are only interesting
    and i appreciate the skill etc of the poem

    as other reviewers have mentioned, collins knows that he is going to die
    and that colors everything else. so do i.

    what i like most about his poetry is that in some ways i don't understand
    they teach me how to see my own world more poetically and this is priceless

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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